Scott Tope

Scott Tope

Setting up a Kitchen

Walking through our kitchen set up

In reading the blogs and the posts on some of the websites there is a predominate thought of going out and purchasing a bunch of food and caching it away to be used when needed counting on the fact that the company who produced the food knows exactly what you need or what your preferences may be.  I have read some who have planned down to the how many AAA batteries they will need but post on their list “60 days of food” like its just a thing to checkmark.   Or they will be happy to talk about how much time they spend at the range but never about proper methods of how they intend to feed their family.  While it isn’t sexy and it is not as much fun as a day at the range it certainly is a key component to our success. Working from experience, Katrina and Andrew relief feedings, when people are in a stressful or out of their routine environment that they will eat differently, process foods differently and generally be more apt to slip into a state of existing depression.   We would all like to think that we are going to be able to rise above it.  Find that inner resolve to not let what’s going on around us affect us and that may be the case.  But think about those who are around us, our children, mom and dad, or spouses who may be looking at having just lost everything.  We will need to find ways to improve our resolve, lift the spirits of those around us, and generally keep morale up.  One of the best ways to do this is by creating that comforting environment that is sitting and sharing a meal together.  During the Katrina feedings something as simple as a chocolate oatmeal no bake cookie would bring smiles all around.  Fresh fruit was another source of simple pure delight.  We must take a moment and look at who we are feeding and what are we feeding them. The scenarios of what could happen are endless so I won’t get into a debate of what if this or what if that.  I will be going off the premise that we will need to be working for 90 days with little to no assistance, public utilities wont be available and minimal movement is going to be needed.    There are others in our group far more qualified to speak of how to exist while in transit than me.  Also those who are more experienced with going off the grid will be able to add to this conversation with their personal experiences and best practices.  I know we would welcome any and all input. It is my hope that this will act as a conversation starter and possibly kick in some ideas that maybe some have not thought about.  What it will not do is act as a drop in matrix for your meal planning.  Only you and your group can do that.  What works with my group would not work with a group who is living on a farm and working with minimal public utility support.  Relying on a self-sufficient farm makes things a whole lot easier than counting on a larger box retailer to build your stores.   Also the ability to be adaptable is going to help ensure success.  So don’t feel like you need to think about every item down to the last kernel of corn. Meal plan mistakes One of the mistakes that are often made stems from making assumptions about what we are going to prepare.  Food kits are purchased and cached away.  The knowledge of what’s in that cache are never tested or tried.   Questions we should be asking.  What else do I need to produce this? What equipment is needed to produce this? And finally, Do the people who are going to eat this like it? What else do I need to produce this? Are there other ingredients needed?  Researching some of the products that are out there say they only require water to be added, however reading the instructions you see improvement suggestions like adding dry milk or a meat bouillon.  However, those are not included.  Just a couple of improvements in your stores will pay dividends down the road. What equipment is needed to produce this? Obviously we are going to be cooking and more likely than not we are going to be cooking for a group.  This is going to require assistance from those around us.  What’s in our kitchen?  Do we have a prep area and the equipment necessary?  Knives, cutting boards, bowls, cooking utensils, pots and pans.  Cooking area, do we have ways to handle hot pans?  What about serving utensils.  This may seem to be overly prepared but when we are a week into our situation the organization and planning will be rewarded.  More on that later.  Finally, what are we doing for cleaning up afterwards.  Professional kitchens use a method of a three compartment cleaning system.  Again more on that later. I hate dried enchiladas!!! Do we like what we are eating?  More to the point does our group like what they are eating.  My group currently has a three-year-old in it and let me tell you when she is unhappy we are all unhappy.  We will be dealing with enough stress as it is, so minimizing the impact on our group is important.  How do we find out what’s going to keep those people happy and what’s not?  Start introducing these items in our everyday menus now.  The purpose of this is beneficial in multiple ways.  First it gets us familiar with the product.  We don’t want to be finding out that there is a technique in preparation that we are unfamiliar with.  Or that the items burn quickly and we burned it when there are hungry mouths looking at you and you just wasted a days’ worth of food when food is limited.  Second it gives everyone a chance to have their input in the food.  Do you want more hot sauce; would it be better with a little ketchup.  Make notes and put that in your cache.  Finally, it becomes familiar, if we are used to eating it from time to time then when we see it in again it’s a comfort to us. Know your eaters Who are we feeding?  Mom? Dad? My son who is a defensive lineman on the football team and his two best friends?  An infant? A toddler? My neighbor who is a diabetic?  Are we big eaters?  Does anyone have allergies?  Health issues that require feeding at certain times.  All things to think about and plan for. How do you plan a cycle menu for 12 weeks accommodating everyone’s needs?  Easy you don’t!!!  If we are feeding 8 people three meals a day that’s having to think about 168 meals a week.  Quite daunting!!  But let’s break that down. Let say we are feeding the following people in a late summer fall environment.  The menu plan will work anytime year round.  However, in the summer there will be tendency to drift toward a cooler breakfast item. Our Group 39 yo Male: Heavy eater no allergies Spouse 36 yo: Heavy eater shellfish allergy Son 14 yo: Heavy eater no allergies Daughter 3 yo: particular eater and only eats when hungry Mom 60 yo: moderate eater vegetarian Uncle 61 yo: Heavy Eater particular Aunt 61 yo: Small eater vegetarian   Menu Planning Breakfast:  given choice rehydrated fruit, oatmeal or any hot breakfast cereal, powdered breakfast drink, coffee, or tea Once a week quick baked (none yeast) baked breakfast sweet bread: muffins or coffee cake Producing 24 ea. rotating flavors every week Once a week quick baked savory bread option bacon cheese stuffed biscuits Producing 24 each rotating ingredients every week Once a week produce a larger breakfast that will coincide with a lighter lunch Lunch:  Lunch needs to be a heavier meal.  Lower on the carbs heavier on the proteins. Tortillas! They work well with anything and they are small can be abused and hold well in room temp. Plus they’re easy to make Rice: Billions in the orient eat it every day.  Start looking at the proteins from last night’s dinner and infuse it into today’s lunch rice or pasta.  For the vegetarians it’s easy enough to set some cooked carb aside and add the non-meat ingredients to it.  Or set it up buffet style and let everyone choose. In order to up the protein add fat.  Olive oil is a great source.  If they will let you add bacon or dripping fat to the rice.  Who knows your meat eaters may flock towards this as well? This also might be the time to start thinking about keeping candy bars in your cache.  They hold for long periods of time.  Heck we are in mid Feb here and still eating Halloween candy.  Feb 15 is a great day to go out and stock pile on candy.  IW (individually wrapped) is best and keep it simple.  Plus, the candy will double as ingredients to the occasional dessert you may want to have now and then. Dinner:  End of Day for some beginning of the day for others  This is the meal we need to be thinking a couple of days out.  Can tonights meal be used over the next two days for multiple uses.  For example tonight its roasted pork butt, roasted potatoes, stewed carrots.  Tomorrow can I make the potatoes into a vinegar based potato salad, the carrots can be used to make carrot muffins and can the pork be used in lunch with ketchup and Worcestershire sauce (bbq sauce) to make bbq pork burritos?    Always have a plan with the leftovers. Nutritionals This could be a doctoral thesis all on its own.  And we are only scratching the surface here.  If there is interest more can be said and probably should. Foraging, lots of benefits in foraging product is at its highest nutritional value, there is usually a fair amount around and it gives those who would normally not have a task something to do.  It should not be considered a sole source in obtaining food though.  With the exception of late fall, winter and early spring there is one item we find almost anywhere.  One of the items most common leafy edibles in the North Americas is dandelions.  Dandelion is a very rich source of beta-carotene which we convert into vitamin A. This flowering plant is also rich in vitamin C, fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. It’s a good place to get B complex vitamins, trace minerals, organic sodium, and even some vitamin D too. Dandelion also contains protein, more than spinach. It has been eaten for thousands of years as a food and as a medicine to treat anemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression.(source sunwarrior.com) Dandelion roots are also a great source for making tea.  In the early spring the blooms make a great addition to your oatmeal in the morning. Getting your younger team members to go out a forage for dandelion leaves and bringing them back adding a little vinegar and bacon fat or olive oil makes for a great salad.  They can be a bit bitter so think about adding some dried fruit.  Also it does cook well and makes a good addition to the pastas and rice dishes we spoke of earlier Honey is another source of nutrition and amazing health benefits.  Recommendations on this would be to source locally.  There are some manufactures that will advertise honey but looking closer you will notice its an ingredient and usually corn syrup is added. The properties in this little ingredient are nothing short of amazing.  It holds for a long time too.  Casks have been found in the Egyptian tombs and opened to find it still usable.  The health benefits include allegry alleviant, energy booster, memory booster, cough suppressant and a sleep aid. There is research that shows honey has antibacterial and antiseptic properties.  So multi-purpose and it tastes great we should have gallons of this stuff around!!! Safety Safety Safety Food Safety and cross contamination are a huge problem in any catastrophic scenario.  Dysentery, Giardia, salmonella, and E.coli are all common in disaster areas and directly linked to food cross contamination. A heightened sense of awareness and a few extra precautions is all that’s needed to eliminate most of these common issues. Hand wipes:  Baby wipes are fine.  Costco and Sams have them in bulk cases.  Keep them at the entrance to the kitchen/dining area and make sure everyone cleans their hand with one.  If you have hand sanitizer that’s great use it.  But when handling food we need a friction scrubbing method to remove particles from our hands.  Hand sanitizer just partially sterilizes the debris already on your hands and isn’t 100% effective. Nitrile Gloves: Powder free - latex free usually come 12 boxes to a case.  Great for handling any food.  Another layer of the contamination prevention.  Changing often, or when soiled and when changing duties.  Cleaning vegetable and now starting to clean meat? Change your gloves.  Got batter on your hands and now want to start frying dough?  Change your gloves.  Breaking down an animal?  Change gloves often to prevent the meat from getting contaminated.  If this all seems excessive it probably is but the alternative is that you poison your whole team.  We need to be cautious at every turn. Dish Soap: Its recommended a gallon a week for our scenario.  Antibacterial, lightly scented or no scent.  Dawn antibacterial is very affordable and easily found. Hand towels and other paper products: Try thinking about keeping a large supply of paper towels around.  Not only works as napkins but also for spill clean ups.  Also the one use and throw into the burn pile will also work as a preventative to cross contamination. Same thing for paper plates.  Some would argue that this is producing too much trash and that its not viable environmentally.  That would be a cause for concern however when dealing in what will be a bacteria filled cross contamination rich scenario it would make sense to limit what needs to be cleaned and washed.  So long as we are disposing of the trash in an appropriate way, burning, then we have minimized the problem.  Another alternative would be to have everyone have their own eating vessels.  We will need to make sure that we have set up an appropriate cleaning area for everyone to clean their issue.  More on the cleaning area and set up later Silverware would be up to the group but far less is needed to wash silverware versus plates and bowls. Cups again a preference thing.  Most should have their own drinking vessels and maintain it themselves. Setting up a safe kitchen First zone out your kitchen.  Establish where things are to come in and go out.  Think of it this way.  A group member brought down a deer.  Do you want that deer being processed on the same table everyone is eating on later?  Probably not.  Its imperative that there be a prep area, easily cleaned and away from the serving area.   The kitchen or food production area should have its own area and again be kept away from the prep area. The kitchen should be limited to kitchen personnel only.  Tromping through the kitchen in muddy or dirty clothing does not make for safe eating.  Setting up your kitchen is situational in its approach.  It should be centrally located.  Easily accessed, plenty of ventilation and plenty of light.  Depending on the situation we are working in indoors is preferred but covered or tented is a must.  During Katrina the remote crews were working under tailgate tents on table tops with Coleman two burner stoves.  And they were feeding 300 meals a day. Keeping it clean A crucial area is the “dishroom”  This is actually the easiest.  We need three buckets or large tubs 18x24 in would be ideal.  First tub is filled with soapy water, doesn’t necessarily need to be warm water.  The second tub should be clean water.  Potable would be preferred but isn’t crucial.  Just make sure its from a safe source.  Third tub needs to be clean potable water with 1 tsp of bleach to 1 gal of water.  For this setup we will need a couple of other items to help with this.  A large trash can. A spatual, a couple of green scrub pads, can buy them in bulk at any restaurant supply store and a rack or table to allow for drying. The garbage can, is what it is, the spatula is used to scrape as much debris as possible off any and all dishes.  Sorting the food scraps also makes for a great source of animal feed. Cleaning the dishes pre-wash will lengthen the time the soapy water can be used before changing out.  Scrub the dishes and make sure every area is touched inside and out.  Using your hands wipe down the excess soap back into the tub.  Tub 2 is the rinse tub and will require a quick dump of the dishes.  The third is the sanitizing tub all dishes must be submerged for at least 20 seconds. This will allow the bleach to do its job.  Drying is also crucial.  All items must be stored upside down to allow the water to run off and dry out.  Excess moisture promotes bacteria and mold growth and that’s not good. Trash needs to be removed immediately and away from the food area.  Remove the temptation of bugs varmints and other undesirables. Lots to digest hear.  We will hopefully break it down more in the discussions and hopefully more articles on team support and food preparation ideas....  

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